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Nihilism, Futurist Traditionalism and Conservationism

Right/left as mentality defined

12 08 10 - 21:15

From the people who are ever hopeful to get your attention and dollars for offering a placatory opinion -- namely, that the real problem in life isn't humanity not having its shit together, but that we're all victims of some vast, oppressive conspiracy:


Listening to this litany on Wednesday night in particular reminded me of a research article that came out roughly 5 years ago on political conservatism and motivated social cognition (Jost, Glaser, Kruglanski & Sulloway, “Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition,” Psychological Bulletin). In a nutshell, the article—by Stanford and UC Berkeley researchers—seems to suggest that conservatism is a mild form of insanity.

A meta-analysis culled from 88 samples in 12 countries, and with an N of 22,818, revealed that “several psychological variables predicted political conservatism.” Which variables exactly? In order of predictive power: Death anxiety, system instability, dogmatism/intolerance of ambiguity, closed-mindedness, low tolerance of uncertainty, high needs for order, structure, and closure, low integrative complexity, fear of threat and loss, and low self-esteem. The researchers conclude, a little chillingly, that “the core ideology of conservatism stresses resistance to change and a justification of inequality.”

The above list of variables is more than a little unsavory. We are talking about someone full of fear, with a poor sense of self, and a lack of mental dexterity. - William Todd Schulz, Psychology Today


The bad science here is that if you assume all of the things feared are not to be feared, you make the people who fear them look like idiots.

"This survey revealed people in it had a high degree of fear of alien abduction... hahaha! What ignorant slobs!"

Let's look at galloping doofus's list of worries:


  • Death anxiety - Easily misinterpreted as death anxiety is a healthy fear of death. People in denial of death do not have death anxiety. Normal people struggle with their mortality, because in this life there are no guarantees.

  • System instability - Most of the links I found for this phrase referenced this article itself. I'm guessing they mean the person is unstable to some degree or another. This is vague and probably suggests they measured one means of instability, while ignoring many other potential ones.

  • Dogmatism/intolerance of ambiguity, closed-mindedness - Let's make some assumptions: first, that tolerance of ambiguity is good ("who knows if we'll have a fire tonight? don't worry") and the second is that open-mindedness is a good thing, and that we define open-mindedness as a perpetual state. Anyone who has been around life for more than a few years knows that at some point, making conclusions about what you like and what you don't like is very helpful, especially if you deal with ambiguous situations. Go ahead and make that fire. Always make the fire. When you've browsed a bit, make a conclusion; a working hypothesis. Notice that nowhere here do they say "conservatives won't change their minds when given clear and equal data" only that they are inclined to have strong opinions.

  • Low tolerance of uncertainty - See above. Uncertainty is great if you live in a city apartment, are bored at your make-work job and need some spice in your life, so you do something neurotic. It's terrible if you wrangle with real issues. Low tolerance for uncertainty is a good way to force a brain to hammer out those difficult issues that most people blow off.

  • High needs for order, structure, and closure - What awful things these are! You like having a tidy house, have yourself be organized and getting one task done before moving on to another. Having seen one too many "good multitaskers" at work screwing up ten tasks at once, I'm inclined to like this ordered mental outlook instead.

  • Low integrative complexity - "The capacity and willingness to:(1) acknowledge the legitimacy of contradictory perspectives on a problem; and(2) integrate those contradictory considerations into an overall judgment." (Blackwell Online Reference) -- it's that open-mindedness concept again: if we automatically assume that assimilating any concept as true is good, then it's great to have high integrative complexity. But if you're interested in whether what you're assimilating is true or not, it's terrible -- you want low integrative complexity meaning that instead of accepting whatever half-truth gets thrown your way, you chew it over for awhile and make it pass some heady tests before you accept it. This isn't a weakness; it's a strength.

  • Fear of threat and loss - If we rephrase this as "more aware of threats" do we un-spin this jargon from negative to positive? It's true: if you want people who don't screw up in life, you want people who know what the stakes are; that way, among other things, they don't fall into confirmation bias and ignore real risks, and they treat every issue with seriousness. That sure beats trying to handle real-world problems by denying what's at risk.

  • Low self-esteem - Another mismeasurement. Do we want narcissists? People with the artificially inflated self-esteem that's been de rigeur since the 1970s in American education turn out to be narcissists; on the other hand, as the Dunning-Kruger effect illustrates, people who are more intelligent do not have the blind confidence of the dumber people -- you might call that low self-esteem, or just point out that it's a cautious outlook on life.



Here's a mature assessment of conservative values:


Each culture's morality is unique, but an aspect shared by all five-foundation moralities is that they do not regard society as a social contract created for the benefit of individuals. Rather, they see society in more organic terms, as an entity that is of value in and of itself, and they think the building blocks of society are not individuals but rather groups and institutions. The point of moral regulation is to enhance the integrity of these building blocks and to improve the way the blocks fit together, in order to ward off the ever-present danger of social decay.

The Ingroup, Authority, and Purity foundations are moral foundations because they constrain individuals; they pull them away from self-serving, pleasure-seeking individualism by binding individuals into groups and institutions. (Think about the transformation of an 18 year old who enlists in the army.) Liberals do not see this binding as necessary or as desirable, hence they do not see a moral system based on these foundations as worthy of anything but contempt. They think their opponents are motivated by greed, fear, racism, and blind obedience to scripture or tradition.

What a shame. If liberals could only step out of their righteous bubble, they'd be able to solve these riddles, which at present befuddle their thinking and curse their projects. - Edge


Contrast this to liberalism, which in my experience of my generation, has done nothing but make single, neurotic, commitment-averse, consistency-averse, unfocused and dysfunctional people. And we can see this the most in the millennials, whose schooling occurred after the 19670s boom in "positive thinking" and "everyone wins" style liberalism in the schools:


The researchers found that among college students over the past 25 years, current students are more likely to answer affirmatively to questions such as, "If I ruled the world, it would be a better place," "I think I am a special person," and "I can live my life any way I want to." In fact, by 2006 two-thirds of the students had above-average scores — 30% more than in 1982.

These results confirm what educators and psychologists have been grumbling about for years: This generation of 18-to-25-year-olds might be the most narcissistic generation ever.

"When a few students were sick and missed an exam 20 years ago, they used to be apologetic and just grateful that I would even offer a makeup," a Harvard professor said. "These days I have kids who think it's no big deal to miss a test if they have any conflict and then they think they should decide when I give the makeup. My students are more self-absorbed than ever."

...

"If there are more narcissists in the society, we would expect more people would favor short-term sexual relationships over long-term emotionally satisfying relationships," Ms. Twenge said. "Narcissists lack empathy and emotional warmth. They are less able to imagine someone else's perspective. Narcissists can't handle criticism and are more concerned with self-promotion than with helping others." - NY Sun


When it comes to thinking about what political personality is most desired, I think I'll go with hard evidence (what happened to millennials when we entrusted them to liberal care and ideology) versus the conjectural, biased and leading study that suggests conservatives might have these traits which are implied to be bad although that is never explained, or even given a logical foundation. Confirmation bias -- not us, surely.

The proof for this is too long to post here, but I think high self-esteem and low consciousness of the world are consequences of one another. If you're oblivious to reality, all your own decisions seem perfect. If you think you're perfect, of course you ignore consequences in reality -- that's not the feedback loop you use to measure yourself; your feedback loop begins and ends within your own skull.

Now what might make someone a narcissist? One guess is that bowing to social pressure creates a mental state where they cannot tell the difference between human judgments ("fire is bad") and logical assessments ("fire is coming our way, run!"). Accustomed to the demands of socialization, they live in a state where the opinions of humans crowd out the rest of their perception of reality, and so they make their own perceptions absolute to compete with the many judgments, critiques, and other neurotic voices around them. In order to survive, they filter out first reality (so they can pay attention to social pressures) and then, most social pressures, to defend themselves against this tsunami of moral judgment. They become solipsistic, or denying of an external reality beyond themselves, as a coping mechanism. This is how "tolerant" societies become tyrannies -- through good intentions that ultimately favor the individual too much, isolate them within themselves, and as a result make them greedy, selfish, oblivious and manipulative.


All this suggests that anger and gratitude – and perhaps other emotions, too – may be tools for turning up a partner's mental cooperation control dial, says Tooby's colleague Aaron Sell. You get angry not when someone hurts you, but when their actions betray a setting of their cooperation dial that is lower than you expect, and your anger is both a threat to turn down your own dial and an inducement to them to turn theirs up. You show gratitude not when someone benefits you, but when their dial is set higher than you expect, and this signals that you plan to turn yours up in response.

...

Preliminary evidence is consistent with the idea, however. Psychological tests of 281 university students revealed that those with a stronger sense of entitlement tended to be more anger-prone, as one would predict if they expected others to set their cooperation dials higher.

Stronger men and more attractive women were quicker to anger, too, Sell reported last year (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0904312106). Although stronger men wouldn't necessarily have any reason to expect better treatment in modern society, in the past they would have been desirable mates – as attractive women may still be – and so may have a stronger sense of entitlement.

And a wealth of evidence – some of it presented at last month's meeting, and some still unpublished – suggests that the cooperation control dial, or "welfare trade-off ratio", is a real part of our mental make-up, says Tooby. - New Scientist


This is of course no surprise to anyone who has stayed in touch with the last 200 years of philosophy: we know that altruism is bunk, and that with fixed agrarian societies, psychological control of one another became a necessity. Because control has to happen without seeming to be control, it hides itself as benevolence and/or injury; that is the essence of passive aggression, which is claiming an injury so that you are "owed" something by others. It's also hardwired into our emotions because it's a useful monkey control mechanism.

Do we evolve past this? Well, that's up to us -- but clearly liberalism provides no incentive to do so. In fact, liberalism is an embrace of that inner monkey, and a subsidy for its ego while loudly proclaiming that its broken viewpoint is "just as valid as anyone else's"!

The insanity has spread:


Other studies similarly confirm the pervasiveness of the “beauty bias.” About the same proportion of employees report discrimination based on appearance as discrimination based on race and sex. And economists have quantified a substantial “plainness penalty” even in occupations like law, where looks generally bear no relationship to competence. In educational settings, a cottage industry of studies have shown that teachers give lower grades to unattractive students; students give lower course evaluations to unattractive teachers.

Part of the problem is the lack of consensus that any of this is a problem. “So you Want to Hire the Beautiful” ran the title of one Business Week column. “What’s wrong with that?”

What’s wrong is the same thing that’s wrong with discrimination based on race, ethnicity, or gender. Prejudice based on looks rather than performance violates principles of equal opportunity and social justice that this nation has fought hard to establish. Beauty bias is the last frontier of acceptable bigotry. Except in a few localities, it is now perfectly legal. That needs to change. In schools and workplaces, people should be judged on how they perform, not how they look. - Boston Globe


The entitlement mentality is the idea as follows:


  • I am human, therefore, I am equal to others.

  • My opinions are equally valid even if not correct in reality.

  • No one can tell me I am wrong or that I need to change.

  • I am beautiful just as I am, and perfect for what I need to be.



The root of the entitlement mentality is equality: without having proven myself competent, I must be considered as being just as important as others, because I too am human!

This of course leads to extremes, with some trying to make food a human right and water a human right, expanding civil rights (as conservatives said they would) from "I want fairness!" to "I want to be equal to someone who is more productive/smarter/nicer than me!"

The entitlement mentality seeks to make everything a right, so that people don't need to challenge themselves with reality, beat their inner demons, and move on to live moral lives without being guided by fear of law enforcement or social ostracization. It's a struggle for us all to become self-actualized, and in past societies we used feudal castes to rank people. Those who could not control their impulses became drones; those who could control impulses, but not formulate a direction in difficult decisions became warriors; those who were able to make difficult, complex and ambiguous decisions became nobles, scribes, kings and religious leaders.

Equality and the entitlement mentality oppose any such hierarchy; they insist instead that everyone be considered equal from the outset, and regardless of ability, needs to compete on "fair" ways: the number of hours put in at a job, how popular they are, or how much money they make by pandering to morons. This presents a problem in that no longer do the best rise, but the most cynical and corrupt. As a consequence, society no longer has leadership, but an inward-looking poll-number-searching sense of serving a clientele. That in turn limits its ability to think strategically:


Big discoveries such as these from researchers outside of academia may be symptoms of a deep and systemic illness in academia, an illness which inhibits professors from making big-leap theoretical advances.

The problem is simply this: You can't write a grant proposal whose aim is to make a theoretical breakthrough.

"Dear National Science Foundation: I plan on scrawling hundreds of pages of notes, mostly hitting dead ends, until, in Year 4, I hit pay-dirt."

Theoretical breakthroughs can't be mapped out in advance. You can't know you've broken through until you're...through.

...at which point there is nothing left to propose to do in a grant application. - Psychology Today


This applies as well to science as any other field of leadership: you can only get to the big picture by taking the time out, and doing it, regardless of what is popular at the moment or in the short-term. Egalitarian societies don't reward this; they reward the short term, through the very creation of "equality" that insists on popular/lucrative results first, not abilities first. Not judging people on the basis of health/beauty, intelligence or moral character seems "fair" at first, but when you realize it creates a fervent competition on the basis of the lowest common denominator, which is repetitive tasks and pandering to the broadest and crassest tastes, you suddenly see how egalitarianism is the opposite of fair -- it's imprisoning each individual in a cage made of the wants/desires/needs of all the others.

If you wonder how we went from being Enlightened beings who inherited a beautiful earth, to grumbling industrial slaves of a crumbling empire that blights the land with its endless concrete, neon signs and litter, you can see the root of modernity at work: egalitarianism. It's our freedom and our enslaver.

Right and left are distinct mentalities. Or rather, right is: it's the original mentality of how people approach life when they are driven to solve problems, find solutions, and fend off real threats. The only real interrupt has been the left, which is egalitarianism in political form, which has sought to unify the many who are discontented and through them, gain power and depose the right, even though that inevitably means an empire drifting away from reality and toward a navel-gazing ethic of convenience which eventually deconstructs it.

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